Reverse culture shock is a bizarre feeling.
Just after sunrise on the 24th October Yona, Ira (two fellow volunteers) and I left the sleepy, tree-lined, dirt roads of the small town of Moshi for the biggest port on the coast of East Africa, Mombasa. The fast-paced, hustle and bustle of the sprawling city of Mombasa is a World away from the Tanzanian town that I currently call home. However, having been away from London just six weeks I was shocked at how strange it felt to be reunited with tarmac roads, concrete pavements and metal road signs. The three of us looked like looney-bin-escapees as we walked, almost dream-like, through the local supermarket, marveling at the Western brand names, shopping trolleys and computerised check-out tills. After this surreal experience we eventually arrived at our destination, the Mombasa Backpackers.
Take three young guys who spend their lives alternately drinking, sleeping and watching films, put them in a rich suburb of Mombasa with enough money to buy a huge mansion house and you have the Mombasa Backpackers. One of these guys doesn't even have his own room, choosing to sleep on whichever surface he passes out. We found him comatosed on a sofa, on a dorm room floor and even curled up inside the beer store cupboard. However, despite their unconventional management style, they successfully introduced us to very best of Mombasa's nightlife. We began by milking the free drinks at the Tamarind Casino ("You don't have to win, you just have to out drink yourself") before moving on to the rich white Kenyan meat-market, the Il Covo nightclub. After five Madonna songs in a row we'd had quite enough of the club and ended up swimming in the freezing, water-flea-ridden sea. All fun and games until someone tears their heel open on a barnacle...
Still, there is much more to Mombasa than the nightlife and we whiled away our days wandering around the beautiful Old Town with its Swahili style fretwork balconies and huge carved wooden doors. We also watched a group of hungry crocodiles being fed before holding a baby one in our hands, on our shoulders, on our heads... (This would have looked a lot cooler if my face had not been a mixture of morning-after-exhaustion and pee-your-pants fear.) We also delighted in feeding giraffes and moving our hands at the last minute to kiss them on the nose...or in Bob's case, lick it up the nostril (South African).
From Mombasa there are lots of amazing beaches to the North and South. We decided to head south to the stunningly beautiful Tiwi Beach where we lazed around in the Sun, swam in the hot bath that is the Indian Ocean and drank from fresh coconuts. The sunrise was so amazing that I even woke Ira up to go and swim in the sea at 6 a.m. - I'm such a great friend! After enough coconuts to sink a small ship we headed back up North and booked our bus tickets to a historic Swahili town called Lamu.
The bus ride from Mombasa to Lamu was an eventful one. This was the first bus ride where we'd been accompanied not only by the usual menagerie of school children, chickens and miscellaneous household furniture but also by two men dressed Indiana-Jones-style, sporting huge AK47s. This was Somali hijacking territory (those pesky Somalians!) and poor Yona just about died every time we stopped at each dodgy looking village. After the slowest tyre change in history and being spat in the face by a Masai (be careful when sticking your head out of East African bus windows!) we eventually reached our destination with clothes, bags and all four limbs still intact. Hakuna matata!